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as one would grip a walking-stick? What Westerner can permit himself to be bitten by a newly caught cobra and watch, with a smile, the blood stream down his wounded arm? What Westerner can enter a house and unfailingly track down suiy reptile hitherto undetectable, that may be hidden in some hole, nook or furnishing?
I have watched the Sheikh do all these things, and more, and thus exercise a subtle dominion over the subtlest of creatures. With all our tremendous advance in scientific knowledge we either cannot or dare not attempt to do these things which this Oriental did with insouciant impunity.
I had seen in India a charmer who walked into a village, carrying two small sacks on his shoulder. He showed the villagers that one contained a few rats and the other poison-fanged snakes. He put his hand into the latter sack and took out a pair of the serpents; he let them bite him onkthe arm and throat several times. Then he lifted out a rat and put it on the ground. Bewildered for a moment, it looked around, and in that moment the snakes struck at it and bit it on the head. A minute kter the unfortunate rat lay dead, killed by the venom in the snake's jaws.
The Sheikh's name was the Arabic form of Moses, and it was a curious coincidence that he should bear the cognomen of the great patriarch who astonished a Pharaoh and his court by catching the tail of a snake and turning it into a rod—so far as the story in the Book of Exodus can be taken literally.
Moussa lived in the little town of Luxor, where I tracked him down with hardly any more effort than that which he used to track down his cobras and vipers. For he is not only the best-known charmer of snakes in the entire region, but because Luxor is a favourite resort of tourists, he may be said to be the best known in the world, for those tourists return home to spread his fame to distant parts of the earth.
He was not the kind of snake-charmer who gathered a small crowd around himself in a dusty street and then put a fangless cobra through its paces to the tune of a reed-pipe. Therefore hundreds ot tourists have visited Luxor without becoming aware of his existence, but several of the old habitues, who come season after season, who get to know the place and its inhabitants, sooner or later alight upon him,
Moussa's profession was really that of unofficial snake-catcher to the native population of the town, just as even now